For those of you that know me, you will know how I love my rituals and ceremonies.
Like many of us, I love to celebrate the new year. It is a time that signifies renewal, a fresh start on a new page.
If you are a follower of tradition you would have set yourself a few resolutions for the new year. Perhaps inspired by the over-indulgence of Christmas and eager to find the new, resilient you beneath those soft layers of comfort.
It is also around this time of the month that people typically give up on their new resolutions and fall back into their old, familiar patterns of behaviour with a resigned sigh —perhaps accompanied by feelings of negativity.
As a child, whenever I was faced with what seemed to be a mammoth task laid out before me, I would make a start and very quickly begin to feel completely overwhelmed. My response to this would be to fly into a volcanic rage, that not only scared myself but also everyone else around me!
This pattern began to characterise my life as I struggled to fit in to the educational programme set out before me, with its lack of choices and ‘one size fits all approach’. I soon became conditioned to my negative behaviour and the consequent responses; finally believing I was a horrible person and a worthless human being.
In fact, I truly believe it was only down to the unrelenting love and support of my parents that kept me moving through those difficult years.
My path finally led me finding Astanga yoga, at a relatively later time of life, in my early thirties in 1998. I continued to be angry with every movement on that mat, thrashing around with the heart of a punk rocker (not many people wanted to practice near me!) I didn’t care if my hand, arm or leg was in the right position or facing the right way, I would just be pleased with myself that I had turned up. It was to the credit of many of my teachers in those early days that they just let me get on with it, seeing my need to burn off some of that anger. Of course, those patterns remained. The negative voices would start up their dialogue and many times I would not be able to get all the way through.
A botanist once told me how all natural growth takes a familiar path. After an initial growth spurt, the growth then plateaus for a lengthy period before another growth spurt comes along — almost like taking steps.
The practice of Astanga yoga has helped my to find the strength to keep going through these times of maintenance: the strength and resilience it takes to keep persevering, keep that motivation going when seemly nothing is changing. Like being on a boat and looking out to sea…the view doesn’t change, you can no longer see your goal, your feet are not grounded and you feel at the mercy of the environment you are in but you ARE steadily making your way toward your destination. If you set your course and keep going, you will get there.
Guruji’s (Pattabhi Jois- founder of Astanga Yoga) powerful words “slowly slowly …all is coming” resonate deeply with me for many reasons. It is much easier to maintain the pace and to keep going than to yo-yo in and out of what usually forms into a pattern of a painful practice (that old adage of the tortoise and the hare springs to mind!)
It is hard to live in our time, constantly swamped by images of perfect bodies in perfectly aligned asanas (postures). It sets up unrealistic expectations and the need to feel as if you are constantly ‘progressing’ in what ever unrealistic way that might be. We are all limited to our DNA and it might be that your body won’t ever be able to make that ‘shape’ you so crave, nor achieve that amazing posture in 2nd or Advanced A or B Series, no matter how much work you put in.
However, if you do manage to maintain your practice, you eventually come to a place of acceptance about who you are. I remember a discussion I had with Nick Evans (a teacher mentioned in our recent book review ‘Guruji’ by Clara Murphy) many years ago. We agreed that the practice makes you more the person you were born to be.
I hope you can keep your resolve in these cold, dark mornings or evenings. Allow your body to bring you to that mat. Be outside of those negative voices and observe them, rather than allowing yourself to be in them.
Give yourself that chance so that Kathryn, Anna and myself at Yogabase Brighton, here at the BNHC, can support you through and help you to find that inner place of equilibrium.
Eventually the negativity starts to get burnt away and the process becomes quicker, until finally you can stop judging and simply accept who you are and that you are exactly where you should be…perfect in every way at this present moment.
Believe me…if I can do it, anyone can!
…and I hope to see you on that mat.